Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Science: A Review.

I just received my copy of Harcourt Science in the mail. I am trying to decide between using Living Learning Books, Harcourt Level 2, or NOEO Science for our first grade year. I suppose this is my review for those science curricula. I have been shopping around for just the right fit for our family. Since we are using a classical method of teaching, we really want to follow through with it in our science program meaning that we want to cycle through biology, chemistry, and physics using a format that uses living books and narration.

Worksheets definitely have a place in our home too, mainly because I think they are useful and my kids enjoy them. But, spitting out facts in order to fill in the blanks is not what I want our science curriculum to entail. I like notebooking and narration because it makes you think. "What was this experiment all about? What is this book saying? What is my interpretation of this experiment/nature walk/book?" Of course, I know that thinking this way takes training and I won't be expecting a complete synopsis from a 6 year old.

Living Learning Books: I really like that this curriculum follows the classical method and is as close to what the WTM is suggesting you do for first grade science. The lesson plans are all written out for you. They include a list of reading materials, additional book and video suggestions and a list of materials needed for projects. Also part of the program is the student activity pack, which comes with coloring pages, narration pages, and more. The curriculum is then broken into 3 different sections. The study of animals is first and comprises of 20 weeks, the human body is second with 10 weeks of study, and lastly is the study of plants with 6 weeks of study. This gives you a whole year of material to study, with science taking place twice a week.

Overall, I like the flexibility in choosing the books used for each unit and that the suggestions are there for you to use as opposed to having to hunt for books all on your own. I also like that projects and experiments are already set for you and all you have to do is collect the materials needed. This program seems flexible enough to use as-is, supplement for those wanting greater depth, or use as a light program.

Harcourt Science: As I have been looking through this book the past few days, I realized how important colorful pictures are when teaching science. Marco actually stole the book from me and took it so that he could look through it! This book is divided into units covering life science, earth science, and physical science. There are no lesson plans that come with this book, but a separate student workbook is available. I'm sure that with a little planning, creating your own lesson plans would not be a problem. Beginning every unit is an experiment that is meant to tie in all the chapters within the unit. There is also an investigation or experiment at the beginning of every chapter. They are all simple enough to do with household items and a great way to begin the study. Ending the chapter are "links", or ways to incorporate the science lesson into different subjects. These "links" offer ideas and things to do for math and social studies. There is also a chapter review that is typical of textbooks, followed by further activities and suggestions for expeditions (such as visiting a preserve or park).

Overall, this is a colorful textbook that appeals to children. It is great for hands-on in that there are plenty of experiments to do and choose from. The downside is that this is your typical textbook, offering a lot of information on many things, but nothing in depth. You would have to supplement with some living books in order for your child to gain more insight into any particular subject. For example, after reading about the life cycle of a bird(an example used in the book), your child might want to know what birds eat or where they live. This book would not be useful to you if more detailed questions arise. It is a very general text, but covers an appropriate amount of subjects. In this book you will find the following units: Living Things Grow and Change, Homes for Living Things, Exploring Earth's Surface, Space and Weather, Exploring Matter, Energy in Motion. This is a great text to accompany any first grade life science curriculum or second grade earth science curriculum. It can easily be used as a stand alone for the family who wants to do basic science without getting into too much depth. The amount of activities in the book are more than enough to keep any homeschooling family occupied and having some science fun.

NOEO Science: This will be my shortest review since it is the only science curriculum I haven't been able to look through and compare. After reading other's reviews and visiting the NOEO website, I have concluded that this program is very similar to Living Learning Books. It follows a classical model in that you cycle through biology, chemistry, and physics; all of which get progressively more in depth/difficult as your child advances in grades. They incorporate narration over worksheets, they use living books over textbooks, and science experiments seem to also involve much observation. Their curriculum comes with lesson plans all made out so that you don't have to do the leg work. If you purchase their set, they include all the books needed for the year as well as science kits used for experiments. From what I have read, the thing this program lacks is more hands-on involvement. It seems that they do just enough to catch the child's interest, but some more kinesthetic learners might need supplementing.

Overall, this curriculum gets very high marks from the majority of its users. It follows the same outline as Living Learning Books and incorporates the same principles of classical studies through the cycling of topics and use of narration and notebooking. Their schedule is intended to be done 4 times a week for 15-20 minutes each time, or it can be done twice a week with longer 30-40 minute lessons.

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